Preparing for Flu Season

Flu season is approaching, and that means many Canadians will find themselves coughing, sneezing, and dealing with other unpleasant symptoms. But are those symptoms due to a cold, influenza (“the flu”), or COVID-19, the newest respiratory virus to challenge our health? Here’s a guide to what you need to know about these illnesses.

Colds

Everyone gets a cold occasionally. A cold usually lasts a week or two, and the symptoms generally develop slowly over a couple of days. The symptoms include sneezing, stuffy nose, and sore throat, minor aches, and mild to moderate chest discomfort and cough. Colds don’t usually lead to serious health problems such as pneumonia, but occasionally complications can develop, including infections in the throat, ears, or sinuses. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of catching a cold:
• Wash your hands often.
• Keep your hands away from your face and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent transferring the virus into your body.
• As much as possible, stay away from people who appear to be sick.
• Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet and being physically active.
• Do not smoke. Smoking makes it more likely that you will catch a cold, and it makes the cold harder to get rid of.

There is no cure for a cold. Antibiotics will not help, because they fight bacteria but have no effect on viruses, and colds are caused by viruses. What you can do for relief is to treat the symptoms.

Here are some helpful tips:

• Drink plenty of fluids to help soothe a sore throat and thin the mucus in your nose and lungs. Hot fluids such as tea and broth can be especially helpful in relieving a stuffy nose.
• Take hot showers and use a humidifier in your bedroom to relieve a stuffy nose.
Saline drops may help drain thick or dried mucus.
• A dab of petroleum jelly can ease the discomfort of a red, raw nose.

If you decide to try cough and cold medicines, there are some things you need to know. These medications should not be given to children under six years of age. They won’t work on young children, and they may be harmful. For children age six and over, follow the instructions on the package carefully. Make sure you understand what the proper dose is and how often the dosing can be repeated. Whether these drugs are given to a child or an adult, if more than one is used, make sure they don’t contain any of the same ingredients, because you could risk getting an overdose of some ingredients by combining the recommended doses of several products.

Flu

Unlike colds, flu symptoms develop suddenly. In addition to cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle or body aches, common flu symptoms include fever, chills, headache, and fatigue. The flu is more serious than a cold, and it can lead to pneumonia and worsening of some existing conditions such as asthma. And even though the flu is caused by a virus, it can lead to bacterial infections. The best way to avoid catching the flu is to get vaccinated—either by getting a flu shot or by getting the nasal spray vaccine. In general, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone age six months and older; however, there are some people who should not receive the vaccine. Your healthcare provider is in the best position to advise you on the vaccine and whether the shot or the nasal spray would be best for you. The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year, depending on how closely the vaccine matches the particular flu virus that is circulating each year. Even if you do catch the flu after being vaccinated, it is likely that your symptoms will be milder and that your flu won’t last as long.

One thing that is important to understand is that the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The same good health habits that will help keep you from catching a cold will also help prevent the flu. People who are at high risk of flu complications should check with their doctor as soon as they think they may be experiencing flu symptoms. People in this category include young children, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.
If you do get the flu, antiviral drugs may provide a helpful treatment. Antiviral medications can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by a day or two. They can also help prevent serious complications.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is adding another dimension to this year’s flu season. This is a new virus, and there is still much we don’t know about it. What we do know is that the symptoms vary from person to person, and some people who are infected with the virus experience no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they may include any of the following:
• Abdominal pain
• Chills
• Cough
• Diarrhea
• Fatigue or weakness
• Feeling feverish
• Feeling very unwell
• Headache
• Loss of the sense of smell or taste
• Muscle or body aches
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
• Vomiting

It may take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus, and the virus can be spread even by people who have no symptoms.

The most common ways the virus spreads are through:
• Inhaling the virus in respiratory droplets spread by a cough or sneeze
• Touching something that the droplets have landed on and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands
• Personal contact, such as by hugging someone or shaking hands

You can reduce your chances of catching the virus by taking some basic precautions:
• Avoid crowded places, especially indoor areas with poor ventilation
• Avoid non-essential trips out of your home
• Do not gather in groups
• Stay at least 2 metres away from other people
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• Wear a mask or face covering when out in public

If you become ill and think you may have COVID-19, isolate yourself at home for 14 days to avoid spreading the virus to others. If you live with other people, stay at least 2 metres apart at all times. Contact your healthcare provider for advice on how to relieve the symptoms. You can access your province’s self-assessment tool at https://ca.thrive.health/covid19/en.

 

Flu-shot and Influenza season update from Chris Chiew, General Manager of Pharmacy

To our valued customers,

We’d like to share with you an update from Chris Chiew, General Manager of Pharmacy, on the flu shot and upcoming influenza season, including the safety measures we have taken at London Drugs to help keep you safe while in our stores.

Transcript:

Hello, I’m Chris Chiew, General Manager of Pharmacy and member of the executive committee, at London Drugs.

The unique circumstances surrounding the approaching influenza season have many of our customers and patients asking important questions about how best to protect their families, neighbours and vulnerable members of the community from the double threat of common flu strains and COVID-19. Questions such as, how can we keep our schools and public spaces safe?

With all the uncertainty, one thing is certain: the flu shot is safe, and it’s the most effective tool we have in protecting against influenza, preventing its’ spread and ultimately save lives.

And because the flu presents an added challenge for frontline healthcare workers, as well as the most vulnerable members of the community, just by getting a flu shot, you’ll be doing your part – taking care of your own health and the health of your community.

Flu shots are especially important for the elderly and young children, who are more susceptible to flu-related complications that can lead to serious health problems or even death. But it’s important to remember that even healthy individuals should get a flu shot because the higher the rate of vaccination, the greater the protection necessary for our most vulnerable individuals. This is also known as herd immunity.

To reinforce this important message, London Drugs is providing added incentive to get immunized. For every flu shot administered at any of our pharmacies, a lifesaving vaccine will be donated to UNICEF Canada to vaccinate children in a developing country against tetanus, polio or measles.

You are likely aware, at London Drugs we’ve introduced a multitude of measures to help keep you safe while in our stores; from decals on the floor so you know where to stand, to plexi-glass barriers between you and our cashiers and pharmacy team, rigorous constant cleaning and sanitation, as well as personal protective equipment and masks for all our staff and pharmacists.

Beyond getting your flu shot, handwashing, social distancing and mask-wearing will continue to be important for everyone heading into flu season and for the foreseeable future. We want to commend those who have been diligent about protecting themselves by taking these precautions and we urge everyone to continue to act responsibly in this way when they visit our pharmacy and other public areas.

Particularly as flu season approaches, we are urging anyone experiencing flu-like or respiratory symptoms to stay home. Even mildly ill patients should not visit the pharmacy. Our pharmacists are available by phone to provide guidance around symptom management. Most over-the-counter medicinal products can be ordered online at LondonDrugs.com to be delivered right to your door.

Flu and coronavirus share common symptoms but there’s one big difference: a vaccine exists to prevent the flu – which is why it is more important than ever to get yours this year.

From our London Drugs family to yours,
Stay well and stay safe.

 

 

 

Everything You Need to Know: London Drugs 2019-2020 Annual Flu Immunization Program

Getting the Flu Shot at London Drugs

All 82 London Drugs locations offer a convenient way for Canadians to receive their annual flu shot. Patients can call the pharmacy or book online to make an appointment. All locations also offer vaccinations on a walk-in basis when London Drugs Certified Injection Pharmacists are on staff.

Increasing Convenience to Increase Immunization Rates

Extended hours, appointments, as well as flexibility for walk-in patients has allowed London Drugs pharmacies to significantly improve ease of access to the flu vaccine with the goal of improving immunization rates. Now more than ever, busy Canadian families are taking advantage of pharmacies as an accessible and convenient alternative to public flu clinics, where they may have experienced long lines and wait times in previous years.

Nervous About Needles? New ‘ouchless’ flu shot option now available

With news that the flu vaccine won’t be available in nasal spray form for Canadians this year, London Drugs pharmacists hope that won’t deter people – especially children – from rolling up their sleeves.

To help reduce flu shot anxiety, London Drugs is offering an ‘ouchless’ option with a free application of Zensa Numbing Cream prior to administering the vaccination. Zensa is a Health Canada approved topical anaesthetic that desensitizes the skin in as little as ten minutes, lessening any potential pain experienced from a flu shot injection.

The goal of the initiative is to provide Canadians who may be fearful of the flu shot, especially children, with an option that may help quell their anxieties.

In BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, children ages five years and older can receive their flu shot at a pharmacy from a Certified Injection Pharmacist. In Manitoba, the flu shot can be administered to children seven years and older at the pharmacy. Zensa is safe for use on children ages 2 and up.

Need more reasons to get immunized? For every flu shot given at London Drugs, a lifesaving vaccine is donated to UNICEF

Simply by getting this year’s flu vaccine at London Drugs, you can play active role in helping to protect tens of thousands of children in other parts of the world from deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases. For every flu shot administered at London Drugs this year, a lifesaving vaccine will be donated to UNICEF Canada to immunize children in other countries from illnesses such as tetanus, polio and measles.

The vaccination donation campaign is in partnership with I Boost Immunity (IBI), an online immunization advocacy and learning platform supported by the Province of British Columbia and administered by the Public Health Association of BC. Since 2016, I Boost Immunity has donated over 750,000 vaccines for children through UNICEF through various campaigns.

What to Expect During the 2019-2020 Flu Season

Pharmacist Agusia McGrath spoke on Global News Morning Calgary about what to expect during the 2019-20 flu season, the need to get vaccinated and the misconceptions surrounding flu shots.

Who Can Get Vaccinated at London Drugs

London Drugs Certified Injection Pharmacists can provide the flu vaccination to adults as well as children.

The injection regulations for pharmacists vary by province. Below is an overview.

When to Get Vaccinated at London Drugs

Getting vaccinated before flu season arrives gives the body the greatest chance to build up immunity to (protection from) the virus. Influenza activity in Canada typically begins to increase over the fall, and peaks in the winter months. Depending on the year, the peak may occur as early as fall or as late as spring.

To maximize your protection, get vaccinated annually as soon as the flu shot becomes available.

2019-2020 Flu Shot Launch Schedule

About the 2019/2020 Vaccine

Standard-Dose Vaccine

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine has been updated to protect against the viruses that health experts believe will be circulating during the upcoming season. The flu vaccine for 2019-20 includes immunization against both H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A virus strains and either one or two influenza B viruses.

Fluzone High-Dose

Note: Due to manufacturer delays, Fluzone High-Dose availability is delayed until early December. Call ahead to confirm availability.

The Fluzone High-Dose is specially formulated to provide better protection for people over 65. Compared to the standard-dose inactivated influenza vaccines, the Fluzone High-Dose contains four times the antigen intended to create a stronger immune response (more antibodies) in older individuals, who generally respond at lower levels than younger individuals. The higher dose of antigen in the vaccine gives older people a better immune response, and therefore, better protection against flu.

Fluzone High-Dose is not currently publicly funded. It will be available for purchase at London Drugs at a cost of $75 when it becomes available.

London Drugs Survey: Most Western Canadians Planning to Get the Flu Shot This Season

Western Canadians largely believe in the benefits of getting flu shots, with the majority of residents planning to get theirs this flu season.

Three-in-five (59%) Canadians in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba say they are likely to get the flu shot for the 2018/2019 season, including nearly all of those (98%) who received last year’s vaccine—a number that is consistent across all of the provinces. While this number seems promising, there is still a large proportion (37%) who aren’t planning on getting this year’s vaccine.

Common misconceptions prevent many from getting the flu shot

While seven-in-ten Western Canadians (71%) report having gotten the flu shot in the past, the most common reason provided among those unlikely to get immunized this year, is the belief that the vaccine is ineffective or only works for previous strains of the virus (38%, a number that that climbs to 45% in Saskatchewan).

“This is an unfortunate and potentially deadly belief. The vaccine is always updated to protect against the viruses that health experts believe will be circulating during the upcoming season and protects against multiple strains. By getting the flu shot, you not only protect yourself, but you protect others who could have life-threatening complications from catching the flu,” says Gianni Del Negro, a Pharmacist at London Drugs.

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine protects against multiple strains of both influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and influenza B.

More than a third of Western Canadians also believe that healthy people don’t need the flu vaccination (37%).

“It’s a myth that if you are a healthy person then you don’t need a flu shot. Even if you are in good health, it’s important to get immunized to prevent the spread of illness to high risk individuals such as newborns, young children, pregnant women, and adults with chronic medical conditions,” says Del Negro.

Almost one in four (36%) believe you can catch the virus from the flu shot. Those in Saskatchewan are more likely to agree that you can contract the flu from the vaccination (47%) than those in Manitoba (38%), Alberta (33%) and British Columbia (26%), and that you can catch the virus from it (36%).

Seven-in-ten (70%) also agree that the vaccination can have negative side effects. British Columbians are significantly less likely to believe this (60%) than their Western counterparts: Saskatchewan (68%), Manitoba (71%) and Alberta (71%).

“It is impossible to contract the illness from the vaccine itself because they are made with viruses that have been inactivated and are therefore not infectious. Most people don’t have reactions to the flu vaccine; those who do may have minor soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site,” says Del Negro.

Most agree that getting the flu shot is important to protect those most vulnerable

Despite these misconceptions, at least three-in-four Western Canadians agree that it is important to get the flu vaccination every year in order to help protect those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness (76%) and feel that getting the flu vaccination each year is a responsible way to take care of both your own health and the health of others around you (75%).

However, many Western Canadians are unaware of how devastating the influenza virus can be. Only half (49%) knew that the flu causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.

Knowledge and awareness about flu shots is high

Overall, Western Canadians are highly aware of several facts related to flu vaccinations. Almost nine-in-ten know that flu vaccinations are available free of charge for many Canadians (89%), are available at most pharmacies (88%), and that Health Canada recommends Canadians protect themselves from the flu by being vaccinated each year in the fall (also 88%). More than three-in-four are also aware that pharmacists can administer the flu vaccine (85%) and that the vaccine helps prevent hospitalizations and saves lives (78%).

Flu shots are widely available, by appointment or walk-in, across Canada. Western Canadians who are likely to get vaccinated this season are largely planning to get theirs at a pharmacy (41%), public flu clinic (16%), or doctor’s office (13%).

“Simply by getting a flu shot at London Drugs you can make a global impact, providing life-saving vaccinations to children worldwide, while taking care of your own health needs and potentially saving the lives of people in your own community as well,” says Del Negro.

For every flu shot administered at London Drugs pharmacies this year, a lifesaving vaccine will be donated to UNICEF Canada to immunize children in another country. The vaccination donation campaign is in partnership with I Boost Immunity (IBI), an online immunization advocacy network.

Flu shots are conveniently available seven days a week by appointment or on a walk-in basis at any London Drugs location. To learn more about getting the flu shot at London Drugs, visit: LondonDrugs.com/flu

 

ABOUT THE SURVEY

Results are based on an online study conducted by Insights West from September 14th to 26th, 2018 among a representative sample of 2,144 British Columbia adults.  The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 2.12 percentage points. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding.